How Visionary Marketers Are Building Their Brands: Employee involvement

February 25, 2010

Where are the leading-edge ideas in marketing? Over the last 12 months, we've gone on the road to find out. In addition to learning from our clients, we've been spending time with visionary marketers at leadership forums in places like London, Las Vegas, Moscow, Mumbai, Miami and even midtown Manhattan. From our wide-ranging travels, we've been able to discern several key trends that matter to marketers in every industry and every corner of the world. Each installment of this ongoing series will highlight one trend and its implications for you. We look forward to your commentary.

Employees say: involve me more, train me less

What we’re hearing:
Involving employees, through online communities, in the process of creating, managing and building brands is becoming standard practice among leading-edge marketers (and their compatriots in the human resources function).

Involving employees at Kraft Foods
Kraft Foods, owner of America’s best-known cheese brand, began a corporate rebranding initiative to reposition the firm as a global provider of snacks, quick meals and other convenience-oriented foods. From the outset, CMO Mary Beth West and her colleagues in human resources set out to “co-create” the solution with employees at every stage of the development process. As part of this initiative, Kraft invited over 7,000 employees from across the firm to contribute their ideas via an online community. This community, hosted on an internal server for several months, gave the Kraft team the ability to run “what-if” scenarios and other participatory exercises. The firm’s brand promise, captured in the tagline “Make today delicious,” as well as the firm’s seven core values, were a direct output of this co-creation process.

Building global brand communities at John Deere
In highly decentralized, global organizations, the corporate brand management group is often challenged with the amount of time it takes to distribute brand assets around the world in a consistent manner. John Deere, the leading agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer operating in 31 countries, decided to take on this issue by creating an online brand community. The installation of this platform has helped Deere streamline the approval process for developing on-brand communications, while at the same time helping brand professionals share materials and success stories with each other.

Implications for you

  1. In the past, brand management was all about making verbal and visual communications consistent. Brand managers now have to monitor how the brand lives virtually – social media, blogs, embedded messaging, etc.

  2. Invest more in brand participation, less in brand training. Let employees have a say in what the brand stands for, and let them make it better over time.

  3. Find common ground with human resources. Rather than creating an “internal brand” from HR and an “external brand” from marketing, why not co-create the brand all at once?

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